New detectors can tell whether you’re on the phone

New tech detects the signal from your mobile and knows whether you’re using it whilst driving.

Don't Use Phone When Driving

You’re not allowed to use your phone whilst driving. It’s a law that applies to every driver of every car, bus, truck and our rental vehicles. Yet enforcing the law on using mobile phones in cars has always been a bit tricky as it has to date relied on actually spotting drivers looking down whilst driving or catching them on camera.

Now, new detectors are being trialled on the A34 in Oxfordshire which can identify phone signals in use as a car passes by. Impressively, the sensors can also distinguish between a phone using Bluetooth to make a call or using its mobile signal passively (for example, to play a Spotify playlist) and those in active use where, for example, a driver is texting at the wheel.

The one thing the detectors can’t distinguish is whether the phone is in use by a driver or a passenger, which is why roadside displays will for the time being issue warnings, not penalties.

What are the rules for driving with a mobile phone?

As the Highway Code notes, it’s illegal to hold a phone whilst driving. To use the phone or its features, you must be hands free via either a Bluetooth connection, voice commands or some form of dash/windscreen mount.

The phone must not obstruct your view and you should remain in full control of your vehicle at all times. Crucially, the law still applies whether you’re stopped at lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.

You can use a handheld phone only if you’re safely parked, or if you need to call 112 or 999 in an emergency and it’s not safe or practical to pull over.

Driving a hire vehicle with a mobile phone

The above rules apply to our rental vans and hire cars as much as any other vehicle. There may be issues with the current legislation, not least that it suggests that hands-free systems are safe when they can be just as distracting as any other system and involve the same risk of collision. There have even been calls to ban hands-free phones whilst driving.

That seems unlikely. Our phones are too much a part of everyday working life to ditch them for long periods of the day, so the solution seems to lie in simplifying the use of in car tech, reducing distraction and using detectors such as those now being trialled to reduce numbers breaking the law.

In the meantime, if you’re using our rental vehicles, please use hands free systems.

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